On the move with your horse

What could be more fun than road tripping to shows with your horse?Before hitting the road, consider this information to make sure your horse arrives healthy, safe and happy.When you travel often, you learn what is normal for your horse on the road and how to recognize signs of potential problems.

Ensure vaccinations are up to date

Make sure your horses are up to date on their vaccinations, such as tetanus and strangles.Vaccinations take two to three weeks to provide protection.

Feed and water

Clean water should be offered regularly – approximately every three to six hours – during prolonged ground or air transport. If possible, it is advisable to bring water from home as some horses are reluctant to drink water that is not from the home sources. In warmer conditions, high humidity, or when horses are sweating, water should be offered more frequently. The use of electrolytes (Twydil) can encourage a horse to stay hydrated while on the road and after arrival at destination. Hydration is one of the most important things to keep health and it also helps prevent not only dehydration but colic also.

It is important that horses eat during long journeys. However, it is also imperative that the environment on the transport vehicle have as little contamination of air with respirable particles as possible. In particular, the breathing zone around the horse’s muzzle. Because hay nets must be placed very close to (or within) the breathing zone, it is therefore recommended that hay is thoroughly soaked in water before being loaded on the vehicle or fed in a net to the horses.

To wrap or not wrap?

Base your decision on your horse’s tendencies and personality. If your horse is typically calm in the trailer and is traveling with other calm horses, it may be best to leave their legs unwrapped to avoid them getting too hot.If your horse is prone to pawing or kicking and/or is traveling with a horse with the same tendencies, properly wrapping the legs as a protective measure is recommended. If you do choose to wrap your horse’s legs, be sure to remove them if possible during rest stops so the legs can breathe and cool down, which is especially important if you are traveling during the summer.

Bedding your trailer down is very helpful to ensure your horse is steady on its feet. Absorbent bedding also helps to soak up any urine and manure excreted. If the horse is rugged (not advised unless it’s cold), select a rug that will not overheat the horse and cause sweating. Remember the horse will be using his muscles to balance and there could be limited ventilation once the vehicle is fully loaded with horses.

Have an emergency plan

Although your veterinarian might be willing to speculate about minor horse health issues over the phone while you are traveling, you need to have an alternate plan for serious emergencies.

Duration of journey

Journeys of three hours or less than 500 kilometres are unlikely to be associated with transport-related diseases, dehydration or fatigue due to energy expenditure and reduced feed intake. Road transport time per day should not exceed 12 hours from the time the first horse is loaded on the vehicle. After 12 hours of transport, horses should be removed from the vehicle and comfortably stabled for at least eight hours. This time period is necessary for tracheal clearance and re hydration.

Recovery period

Horses that travel well will be bright and alert with a normal rectal temperature upon arrival at their destination.Unload horses as soon as possible to avoid additional confinement and other stress factors. They should voluntarily drink and be keenly interested in eating within one to two hours of arrival. Hand walking or turnout in a small paddock for an hour or so is recommended.

Despite every effort at preventing shipping fever or other transport-related disease, some horses will become ill during or within the first three days following transport. It is advisable to plan for a convalescent period of at least three days after shipping to allow for treatment of horses that could be ill. Contact a veterinarian if the horse exhibits nasal discharge, refuses feed, or as an elevated rectal temperature.